Michigan Association of School Administrators

Your Success. Our Passion.

Member Blogs

Blog Authors

David Britton, Godfrey-Lee
Rich Franklin, Athens
Scot Graden, Saline
Tony Habra, Paw Paw
Jerry Jennings, MASA
Michele Lemire, Escanaba
Vickie Markavitch, Oakland
Steve Matthews, Novi
Mike Paskewicz, Northview


MASA members: If you have a blog that you would like us to link please contact pmarrah@gomasa.org

The irony of anti-public school sentiment and arguments for maintaining strong support for public schooling

Written by David Britton on Feb 27, 2015
AASA President David Pennington addresses the continuing attacks on public education:

“It is ironic that as we gather today to celebrate our 150 anniversary that we find our public schools increasingly under attack. There have always been critics of public schools, however with the release of A Nation at Risk, the rhetoric of the critics of our public schools began to change. Fueled by the failed federal policy of NCLB and funded by Education Foundations and Think Tanks, we find our schools today being attacked by those who want to divert public dollars to private or parochial schools, or to the balance sheet of their for-profit educational corporation. They hide behind the term 'choice', and they use a snap shot of results from international assessment and state assessments to make their case that our school are failing when noting could be further from the truth.”

“The free and general education of all children at public expense is the natural right of all children in a Republic. It is simple and it is timeless, it was and it is the right thing to do.

“Why do we spend public money to educate children with disabilities? Because the free and general education of all children at public expense is the natural right of all children in a Republic. Why do we educate children who do not speak English, or whose parents are here illegally? Because the free and general education of all children at public expense is the natural right of all children in a Republic.

“Why do we educate children whose parents don’t come to parent teacher conferences, who don’t read to them, who don’t get them to school on time, and who can’t or won’t provide the safe and secure environment they need to learn? Because the free and general education of all children at public expense is the natural right of all children in a Republic.”

Source: http://www.aasa.org/content.aspx?id=36651

What we ignore in the so-called "school failure debate"

Written by David Britton on Feb 27, 2015
It's actually not been much of a "debate" since the monied interests that control the momentum towards more corporate-run and private schools, along with the billions being poured down the drain in the name of testing, control most of the mainstream media's misinformation campaign.
What should be at the center of education reform is outlined clearly by Joan McRobbie.
The Elephant in the School Failure Debate | Joan McRobbieThis isn't a school problem. It's a societal problem imposed on schools, in effect increasing the likelihood of failure--or at best sporadic success--for most high poverty schools. It's popular to compare U.S. student achievement to that of Finland, a country with one of the highest performing school systems in the world. Tamped down in these discussions is comparison of child poverty rates: Finland's is below 5% while the U.S. rate is 22%--by far the worst level of child poverty among peer countries world-wide. When we choose to ignore the fact that poverty, especially concentrated poverty, drags down our schools, we've gone down the rabbit hole. In that realm we can simply bash educators when schools don't improve. Presto! We've outsourced our responsibility as a society, making it teachers' job to surmount the disadvantages we allow to blight the lives of so many American kids.

What is Collaboration?

Written by Scot Graden on Feb 24, 2015

Last week, during the “cold day” our administrative team got together and discuss the 4-C’s – Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity and Communication.  They got into 4 groups and each one generated a blog post about what their “C” meant for Saline Area Schools.  Here is the post about Collaboration produced by: Julie Campbell, Curt Ellis, Steve Laatsch, and Brian Puffer. 

Mission and vision provide a roadmap for an organization to follow. In a collaborative environment, goals are clearly defined and understood and individual strengths are matched to tasks with the goal of benefiting the organization.

In a school setting, it can be difficult for people to understand the roles and responsibilities of others. While individual work is important, absent an understanding of broader roles and responsibilities, capacity and therefore achievement is limited. As a school district becomes more collaborative and the individuals develop a greater understanding and capacity to perform different roles within the team, the ability to withstand personnel changes and preserve the integrity of the organization is enhanced.

In an ever-changing society, the collaborative environment demands flexibility where respect and empathy for the thoughts, feelings and ideas of others is highly valued. High quality individual work is connected to the group, excitement is generated and productivity rises.

Highly collaborative groups are reflective and possess the capacity to self-critique. They are not afraid to fail and will leave no stone unturned until solutions are found. In highly collaborative environments, individuals feel connected to the mission and vision of the organization.

Sources:

http://www.edleader21.com/

http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/advantages-collaboration-education-19763.html

http://www.districtadministration.com/article/benefits-teacher-collaboration

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/05/02/why-collaboration-is-vital-to-creating-effective-schools/ 

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept93/vol51/num01/Finding-Time-for-Collaboration.aspx



What is Creativity?

Written by Scot Graden on Feb 23, 2015

Last week, during the “cold day” our administrative team got together and discuss the 4-C’s – Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity and Communication.  They got into 4 groups and each one generated a blog post about what their “C” meant for Saline Area Schools.  Here is the post about Creativity produced by: Joe Palka, David Raft, Betty Rosen-Leacher, and Marie Schluter. 

What is Creativity?  How do you know if you are Creative ?  Why is Creativity important? As the four of us sit here and ponder those questions, we realize maybe we could be a little more creative ourselves.  Sure, we all have the ability to be creative in our specific venues of our life, but is that enough anymore?  Author Daniel H. Pink in Forbes Magazine had some interesting thoughts. Pink foresees a power shift between left-hemisphere leaders and right-hemisphere leaders at the executive level. He believes that focusing more strongly on developing right-hemisphere potential, and corresponding values like intuition, creativity and empathy, is essential, and thinks the time has come for talented people with these attributes to take up leadership positions.  This is an example of how creativity transcends our future educational and business world.

Sir Ken Robinson talks about the importance of creativity in education and how we are limiting our students in this area.  He discusses how schools are narrowing and continues to narrow creativity based on the standardized testing among our students.   We discuss the importance of being creative but, our curriculum and focus takes that away.  After listening to Sir Ken Robinson it is clear that we need to continue to push the efforts of being creative in our schools.  Take time to view  Sir Ken Robinson, Why is Creativity Important in Education?

If we want to learn more about creativity we need to look at our children… do our schools teach creativity right out of our students? We can learn a lot from our children, how do we know? There are three takeaways we can learn from this video by Kid President:

  1. It’s okay to make mistakes, failure is the backbone of creativity
  2. We are not alone in this adventure, the more we work together the more creative we can be
  3. Kids are our most creative inventors, they aren’t afraid to try anything. As adults we need to stop telling them it might not work, you’re right it might not, but it just might and what can we learn from the mistakes?


A Real-World Connection with Critical Thinking

Written by Scot Graden on Feb 20, 2015

Yesterday, during the “cold day” our administrative team got together and discuss the 4-C’s – Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity and Communication.  They got into 4 groups and each one generated a blog post about what their “C” meant for Saline Area Schools.  Here is the post about Critical Thinking produced by: Rex Clary, Patti Henes, Heather Kellstrom, Kendra Leib, and Janice Warner. 

A Real-World Connection with Critical Thinking

When we think of Critical Thinking, the movie “Apollo 13” comes to mind.  Remember the scene where the NASA engineers were placed in a room with only the materials available on Apollo 13 and they had to construct a carbon monoxide filter so the astronauts would live.  Limited resources and “failure is not an option” really bring out the critical thinking and problem solving skills of individuals.

 

How Saline Schools Defines Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking is really quite vast as a topic.  We’re teaching our students to reason effectively, use systems thinking, make judgements and decisions based off of analysis, synthesis, evaluation and reflection, ask questions that lead to better solutions and solve problems in conventional and creative ways.  Using grade appropriate rubrics, our teachers and students are exploring deeper classroom thinking through hands-on content-driven experiences.

Critical Thinking Classroom Story

Three Little Engineers Challenge

Encompassing all four C’s, but especially critical thinking, fourth grade Next Gen scaled an adaption of The Three Little Pigs challenge that first grade and Kindergarten did.

However to encourage high level critical thinking, the teams were introduced to new and more challenging elements throughout the design and creation process. First, they were given supplies, then later a budget with which they had purchase those supplies from Pig Depot introducing elements of math and economics into the project. Then they tested their prototype with a small hairdryer but were later introduced to the Bigger Badder Fan that their design really had to withstand to be considered successful. And their design had to be realistic as the driving question that the students came up with was “How can we design a structure that can withstand strong hurricane or tornado force winds?”.

The students tied this assignment to writing, literature, science, math, social studies.

Interested in the Learning More

A great place to gain a better understanding about Critical Thinking and other 4C’s is to go the Saline Next-Gen website.  Here’s an example of teacher training that recently occurred on the concept of Critical Thinking & Problem Solving.